Today a bulerías by Luis de la Pica along with a video and a rhythm and coordination activity for you to do from home.
Luis de la Pica
Hoy tengo ganas de verte
echo de menos tus labios
del color del pino verde
Today I want to see you
I miss your lips
the color of green pine
It's Day 3 of the 10-Day Dance Like You're In Class With Mercedes Ruíz Home Challenge. I hope you enjoyed yesterday's exercise for keeping the shoulders down.
Let's get on with today's focus.
Mantener el mismo plié,
Mercedes says this a lot in class.
Maintain the same plié.
Or, as I like to say, don’t bounce.
In flamenco dance we must remain grounded. The upper body projects upward while the lower body connects with the floor.
As you most likely already know, I LOVE being in class with Mercedes Ruíz. (In fact, the way I felt in her class was a major inspiration for the Flamenco Tour to Jerez.) When I’m in home in Portland, I always miss her class, especially the technique work. Although I don’t get to dance with her again until October, I can pretend I'm doing so right now,
And that’s what this challenge is all about,
Pretending we’re in class with Mercedes and continuing to grow as if we were while having fun practicing at home.
(Want to see Mercedes do her thing? Check out the video at the end of this post...)
How will the challenge work?
Each day (for ten days) you will apply a specific idea (provided by me and inspired by the teachings of Mercedes Ruíz) to a flamenco dance move or combination of your choosing.
When is it too late to start learning flamenco? Find out below and watch a video of Mercedes Ruíz dancing as a little girl along with a bulerías clip from Carlos Saura's Flamenco Flamenco.
According to Mercedes Ruíz, "It's never too late do what you want to do." Sure, she began dancing flamenco at the age of four, but that doesn't mean the rest of us are doomed.
I began dancing flamenco at the age of twenty three, or was it twenty two? Pat began when she was sixty nine. Becky began when she was forty four. Many of the dancers I know began in their thirties, forties, fifties, and even sixties. Many danced at a young age then stopped for various reasons only to come back to it years later.
We can begin dancing flamenco at any age
And there is no 'retirement age' for flamenco dancing. We can leave it and come back. And we can continue dancing flamenco as long as we want to. This is something that I absolutely love about flamenco.
It is a dance for all ages.
Older flamenco dancers are in fact respected and honored. This is part of the flamenco culture. (See video clips below.)
A younger dancer may have different goals than an older dancer. And one's desires as a dancer may change over time, just as desires around all things in life will evolve.
But the bottom line is this,
Dancing to the cante. It is what every dancer from Jerez does, professional or non.
It is the dancer conversing with the singer.
In order to dance to the cante,
You must become familiar with the letras (song verses) and engage with the singer when dancing.
To gain familiarity with the letras:
1. Listen a lot.
2. Take a cante class, and study the letras.
To engage with the singer when dancing:
1. Observe what other good dancers do. (Hint: Notice the way Carmen responds to José in the video.)
It’s the final day of the Mini-Challenge and time to step things up a bit. That's right, today things get harder. But sometimes harder can be more fun.
And I think you'll find that to be true with this final activity which is all about creation . . .
The creation of a step
Today’s exercise comes directly from our imaginary teacher of the week, David Romero.
David says coming up wtih a step is easy, You just have to do the work.
In other words, it’s not hard as long as we're willing to put forth effort.
(You can hear him talk about this six minutes thirty seconds into his video interview.)
Below, find out how to make up your very own flamenco step by following David's exact advice. (Well, along with a few additional suggestions from me.)
Today I'm going to show you how to learn from a favorite artist of your choosing. Read on to find out how.
David Romero says that we learn from all of the people we study (or work) with. That we hold onto the best bits from each person, that which we like,
Llega un momento en que naturalmente salen cosas en que tú dices, uy, esto por qué? Porque tú ya lo has vivido o la has visto o te lo han explicado.
“A time comes when things start happening naturally. You start doing things, and you say, “How did this happen?”
The process happens over time, David says. After a lot of dancing, a lot of studying, a lot of practicing, your body begins to change.
"And this is good.” he says. “It should change. Because if someone doesn’t change when dancing . . . What are we going to do? There has to be an evolution. And that comes from learning from all of the people who you study with, or all of the people who you work with, and all of the people who you admire.
Woo-hoo, you’ve made it to day three of the Dancing with David Even Though We’re Not With David Challenge! Today's task won't take long, so read on to find a new exercise to help you become a better dancer from home . . .
Learning by observation is one of my favorite ways to learn, and I've learned quite a bit from observing David Romero, noticing both how he dances and how he approaches dancing and teaching.
Today we're going to focus on the approach.
David gives 100% (if not more) when teaching.
He, the teacher, is there with you, the student, completely.
Which inspires you to be there with him. And to give all that you have to give during those moments.
Sooooo, when you’re in the studio,
Today I'm going to share with you a fun exercise (one of my personal favorites) that will help you to become a better dancer from the comfort of your own home. Yesterday we addressed the idea of looking in the mirror and how we need to look at what’s being reflected back to us in order to know what to change.
Today we’re going to go deeper,
Today we’re going micro,
Today we’re going to talk details
But before we do, I want you to take a moment to remember your why.
Got it in your cabeza?
Now, no matter what your purpose,
Flamenco has a certain aesthetic, and although there is plenty of room for personal style and preference, we must strive to remain true to the aesthetic of this art form.
A story on the value of observation from a past Flamenco Tour (followed by four bulerías take-aways):
Sunday night I was writing
About flamenco and Jerez and what I'm doing here and what I want to learn here.
And I set some intentions for the week.
I had a few.
One was to Observe
To observe people dancing bulerías. Especially people whose dancing I liked. In class and out. Anywhere and everywhere.
To watch them, really watch them. And to notice what was happening.
To notice how they responded to the cante.
To notice how they danced with the compás.
To notice when they did what they did.
To notice the things I liked.
To notice the things that worked.
Maybe even to notice the things I didn't like.
And to notice the things that didn't work.
On Monday morning I went to bulerías class
That was the day Ani taught the ladies about dancing on a floor tile. I'll tell you about that in the next post.
It was also the day she read my mind.
I want to tell you about green bananas. Because knowing about green bananas will help you when it's time to dance bulerías. (In Jerez or anywhere really).
And so, a short story from Jerez
Tú vas a comer un plátano verde?
This is what Ani asked Ana.
Ani is Ana María López, the bulerías teacher.
Ana is a student from Russia.
Un plátano verde is a green banana.
You don’t eat a green banana
For seven days I danced as if I were in class with Mercedes Ruíz, in my own way, just as you may have done in your own way. Seven days of class without class. Seven days of "dancing" wherever we were in whatever way we could and in whatever way we wanted to.
And now that the challenge is “over,” I want to look at how it doesn’t really have to be over.
I share below three ways to easily grow as dancers on any given day and in any given place. Whether you participated in the challenge or not, you can benefit from doing these three things. After that I’ll share some gains (expected and unexpected) that I've taken away from the experience.
(... even if you didn't participate in it)
I enjoyed spending the last week of the year with you during the Dance as if You Were in Class With Mercedes Holiday Challenge. Today I share with you one small way you can keep the challenge going (along with a video of Mercedes Ruíz) ...
Great artists tell me
that they spend enormous amounts of time watching those they admire.
Studying their every move and learning by observation.
So, I invite you to enjoy some time observing one of your favorite artists this week.
And since we've been focusing on Mercedes:
As you know the challenge has involved some squeezing in this week, for me at least. But over the past seven days, I've come to see this squeezing more as taking advantage of moments of opportunity.
"Hey, we have a few minutes before going to do (thing we need to go do) Margot, do you want to do an exercise with me?"
Or, "Is my pompi dentro?" I've found myself asking myself while washing a dish.
And you already know about teeth brushing.
Stuff like that ...
I didn’t tell you this, but I decided to do something I have not done in the past with the choreography I learned from Mercedes in Jerez last fall, I decided to keep it.
You may think I keep all of the dances I learn from her, or perhaps you know me better than that.
My pattern is to let them go.
In fact, this intention I set last fall during the FlamencoTour to Jerez, to retain and polish the choreography Mercedes taught us, is part of the reason I set up the holiday challenge.
I gave myself many excuses as to why I could not do this over the holidays:
'You have other flamenco things to work on Laura.'
'It is December. It is holiday time. It is not time for flamenco discipline.'
'It won’t be the same as being in class with Mercedes. It won't be anything like it...'
I almost didn't do it.
I did something in anticipation of the challenge upon arriving in San Diego,
I told my family about it
You could say it was for accountability, and that may have been part of it, but mainly I was feeling excited. So excited that I had to share.
Often I'll not share these kinds of things with my family or my non-flamenco friends because really, why would they care?
That's what I'll often think.
But I've noticed something,
They do care.
Because they care about me.
I've noticed that when I'm excited about something they tend to get excited as well. And I've noticed that their excitement about my excitement makes my excitement grow.
Day one has arrived, and the Holiday Challenge begins!
What it consists of
Each day for the next seven days I plan to:
- Do a few of my favorite Mercedes body technique exercises.
- Run one of her choreographies.
- Imagine Mercedes talking, giving me feedback.
If you’ve never studied with Mercedes, sin problema. No problem. You can still participate in the challenge. Just substitute another teacher for Mercedes, and do same three tasks using material from that teacher.
Make it work for you.
Now let’s get more specific about the daily activities
There are basically two “tasks.”
If you've ever taken class with Mercedes Ruíz, you will likely recognize the words and phrases below. If you have not yet studied with her and plan to, prepare, because you are sure to hear these utterances over and over again.
If you have previously studied with her but were unsure of what she meant, read on, and find out.
If you have not studied with her and don't plan to, read anyway because the first eight are important tips to remember all of the time in your independent practice or in anybody's class.
People are often asking me about my how I got started with flamenco, about my first experiences. And awhile back I told you I’d tell you some stories from that first year in Spain. So I’m going to tell you a story from that time today. At the end of the story you’ll find a tip on dancing with the bata de cola, it's an essential, and you can work on it anywhere, in the bathroom, in the bedroom ...
But first, Spain
Telling you about my first year in Spain means I have to talk about Matilde Coral.
Porque es una figura.
I didn’t know it then, but my exposure to Matilde and her way of dancing would end up being kind of huge for me. Yesterday I had a big realization about the significance of her academy having been the first flamenco school I was sent to in Sevilla.
Evelyn likes being in the back of the room. In the back where she thinks she can hide.
In the back where it feels safe.
Evelyn is a student and a reader here. I wish you could meet her.
She sent us an email, Evelyn did. She wrote it in response to this.
I wanted to share it with you immediately upon reading it.
She talked about wanting to hide in the back of the class. Even wanting to leave. About feeling stupid. And about feeling afraid.
I knew these thoughts she spoke of
As a fellow fearful stay-in-the-back-of-the-classer, I knew these thoughts.
I figured you might know them too, so I asked her if I could share her words with you. And she said yes.